Monday, June 04, 2012

A modest proposal

A few years ago I read somewhere* of a proposal that when a couple with children split up, the house and the money needed to maintain it as a household should remain with the children, and the two parents should alternate which of them lives there.  This is in contrast to the current arrangement where two parents maintain households and the children move back and forth between them.

The thinking behind this novel idea was that if we say that the needs of the children come first, then what children need is a stable, consistent home environment, and the fact that the two parents no longer want to live together shouldn’t deny them this.  They should have their home, which is near their school and their friends, with their own rooms and possessions in one place.  The parents on the other hand, if they want to be part of their children’s lives, have to shuttle back and forth between their children’s home and any other home they might want to have.

You can see straight away that adults would complain that this idea is completely unworkable because parents would never know where they were, they would get confused, they wouldn’t have the things they need around them, they would never be able to relax, nowhere would feel like home, and they might have to spend time away from a new partner they love and want to be with.

But this is what children of separated parents have to go through all the time and it just adds to the pain and suffering that the breakdown of a relationship causes.

I’m actually not telling this story because I have an axe to grind about divorce, which is going to be painful and difficult no matter how it’s managed, but because I think our response to this proposal says something very important about the way we view children in our society.  We use a rhetoric of them being important and that their needs must be met first, but our actions say something different.  The axe I do want to grind is that this is what happens in church life.  We say that children matter, that they are important, but, when it comes to putting their needs before our own, we somehow miss the mark.

Us Baptists have been talking recently about re-imagining the future, but I wonder what church would look like if we wiped the slate completely clean and then started again with what children need to grow in faith?  Then fitted adult needs in after that…recognising that some might not be met because our best has been used for the children.  It would as startling and radical as the proposal I started with, but it might also mean that we assure the future not only of the children who grow up through it, but of the church itself.

How are you reacting to that???  What does your reaction mean?

*If anyone can tell me where I read or heard it I'd be grateful

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